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Dickinson State University students Kayla Kilwein, left, and Kaylee Zorc hit the books Thursday for midterms at DSU's Stoxen Library and Theodore Roosevelt Center in Dickinson.

Accreditation advisory team to visit DSU

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Accreditation advisory team to visit DSU
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A day after a bomb threat was called into Dickinson State University, a group that accredits the school announced it will be coming for an advisory visit.


Police had not made an arrest Thursday afternoon regarding Wednesday's bomb threat.

The Higher Learning Commission will come in April or May because of the results of recent audits of the university.

"The purpose of the visit is to evaluate whether or not they're meeting the criteria for accreditation," said John Hausaman, HLC public information administrator.

DSU is accredited through the Chicago-based HLC, which could choose to put DSU's accreditation on probation or even revoke it, Hausaman said.

"It could be an option if they're found not to be in compliance with accreditation, but the idea is to identify problems with this," Hausaman said. "This process would take several months to complete and there is no end date at this time. It's just going to have to follow through the process."

The visit will help HLC decide what, if any, action to take, according to a press release.

"There's been no indications of any sanctions at this point," said John Irby, North Dakota State University System public affairs consultant.

Hausaman said accreditation allows for easier transfer of credits and acceptance into graduate schools.

"It's basically a seal of institutional quality, that the institution that you're going to is a legitimate institution of higher ed," he said.

This school year has been tumultuous for DSU. The school's former president, Richard McCallum, was fired in the fall after audits outlined several allegations, such as his role in inflating enrollment numbers.

Details of an audit report, which found DSU had awarded hundreds of degrees to foreign students enrolled in special international programs who didn't earn them, signed up students who couldn't speak English and enrolled a handful without qualifying grades, were made public Feb. 10.

That same day, Doug LaPlante, 58, DSU dean of the college of education, business and applied sciences, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to DPD. School officials said LaPlante was not aware of the audit's results prior to his death.

On Wednesday, three buildings were evacuated after a caller threatened to detonate bombs in them, officials said.

DSU President D.C. Coston said the HLC advisory team will likely focus on DSU's special international programs.

"They will be interested in finding out what we're doing to correct things and being sure they don't happen again," he said.

A Thursday press release stated irregularities are isolated to special international programs.

A sample of student files at Dickinson State University was tested by Bill Eggert, NDUS director of internal audit and risk assessment, according to the release.

"Issues with student files were solely designated to the special international cohort," Eggert stated in the release. "My testing was on the other four cohorts: domestic first year students, domestic transfer students, international first year students and international transfer students, to which all 158 files were complete and with no issues noted."

Nepalese DSU students Om Bartaula, a senior, and Shailesh Thepa, a sophomore, are optimistic about the university's fate.

"We're unhappy about what's going on, but we're happy to be a part of DSU," Thepa said.

He believes the issues will be straightened out and will blow over.

"The news will slowly disappear," Thepa said.

Bartaula said he feels like officials are trying to restore DSU and make it "a good place."

"Bad things happen everywhere," he said. "It doesn't mean you have to leave from this place."

However, Bartaula has worried that DSU's issues will affect his chances of getting into graduate school.

Thepa doesn't think DSU's issues will affect any more students academically.

"I'm not thinking of transferring at all," Thepa said. "I'm going to stay here."

Coston has called on the support from the community.

"I like to think that people really care about this place and care about what we're doing and that folks are committed to this institution," Coston said. "And we're going to manage it as best we can and hopefully it'll be a great place to be a student and continue to be a great place to be providing an education to those students."

DPD Sgt. Dave Wilkie said police continue to investigate Wednesday's bomb threat and are trying to trace the call.

"It's hard to tell what the motive was behind it," Wilkie said. "It could be a prank. It could be that somebody had a test they hadn't studied for. It could be retaliation for things that have been going on the last couple of weeks. You just don't know what the motivation is until you actually talk to the person that did it."